RENEWAL MONDAY. CHRISTOS ANESTI! CHRIST IS RISEN! THE POWERLESSNESS OF DEATH
CHRISTOS ANESTI! CHRIST IS RISEN!
In the death of the Savior the powerlessness of death over Him was revealed. In the fullness of His human nature Our Lord was mortal, since even in the original and spotless human nature a “potentia mortis” was inherent. The Lord was killed and died. But death did not hold Him. “It was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24). St. John Chrysostom commented: “He Himself permitted it. … Death itself in holding Him had pangs as in travail, and was sore bested … and He so rose as never to die. He is Life Everlasting, and by the very fact of His death He destroys death. His very descent into Hell, into the realm of death, is the mighty manifestation of Life. By the descent into Hell He quickens death itself. By the Resurrection the powerlessness of death is manifested. The soul of Christ, separated in death, filled with Divine power, is again united with its body, which remained incorruptible throughout the mortal separation, in which it did not suffer any physical decomposition. In the death of the Lord it is manifest that His most pure body was not susceptible to corruption, that it was free from that mortality into which the original human nature had been involved through sin and Fall.
In the first Adam the inherent potentiality of death by disobedience was disclosed and actualized. In the second Adam the potentiality of immortality by purity and obedience was sublimated and actualized into the impossibility of death. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (I Cor. 15:22). The whole fabric of human nature in Christ proved to be stable and strong. The disembodiment of the soul was not consummated into a rupture. Even in the common death of man, as St. Gregory of Nyssa pointed out, the separation of soul and body is never absolute; a certain connection is still there. In the death of Christ this connection proved to be not only a “connection of knowledge”; His soul never ceased to be the “vital power” of the body. Thus His death in all its reality, as a true separation and disembodiment, was like a sleep. “Then was man’s death shown to be but a sleep,” as St. John Damascene says. The reality of death is not yet abolished, but its powerlessness is revealed. The Lord really and truly died. But in His death in an eminent measure the “dynamis of the resurrection” was manifest, which is latent but inherent in every death. To His death the glorious simile of the kernel of wheat can be applied to its full extent. (John 12:24). And in His death the glory of God is manifest. “I have both glorified it and will glorify again” (v.28). In the body of the Incarnate One this interim between death and resurrection is fore-shortened. “It is sown in dishonor: it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness: it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body: it is raised a spiritual body” (7 Cor. 15:43-44). In the death of the Incarnate One this mysterious growth of the seed was accomplished in three days — “triduum mortis.”
“He suffered not the temple of His body to remain long dead, but just having shown it dead by the contact of death, straightway raised it on the third day, and raised with it also the sign of victory over death, that is, the incorruption and impassibility manifested in the body.” In these words, St. Athanasius brings forward the victorious and resurrecting character of the death of Christ. In this mysterious “triduum mortis,” the body of Our Lord has been transfigured into a body of glory, and has been clothed in power and light. The seed matures. The Lord rises from the dead, as a Bridegroom comes forth from the chamber. This was accomplished by the power of God, as the general resurrection will, in the last day, be accomplished by the power of God. And in the Resurrection the Incarnation is completed, a victorious manifestation of Life within human nature, a grafting of immortality into the human composition.
~Adapted from Georges Florovsky, The Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Redemption